Observer column: 23 August 2019
This Sunday, I'll be joining in with Hastings Pride. Already, there are rainbow flags in the town centre, as well as on the Town Hall and Council Offices. There will be a colourful procession along the seafront and a day of music and entertainment on The Oval, as well as other events throughout the weekend. It's wonderful to see Hastings Pride now established, and holding its third summer festival, a spectacular, entertaining event for everyone.
This year, the festival marks the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, where raids on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York sparked a series of riots by those who had been victims of oppression by police and the authorities. This led to the formation of the American Gay Liberation Movement, which was instrumental in changing attitudes and legislation affecting LGBTQ people, both in the USA and throughout North America and Europe.
So the theme of this year's festival is 'heroes' - particularly appropriate for Hastings perhaps, where Alan Turing lived as a child and went on to his crucial code-breaking work during the war. Sadly, the importance of his work was never recognised in his lifetime - his work remained secret until years after his death, with some details not released until 2012. But rather than receiving any kind of recognition for his work during his lifetime, Turing was instead persecuted and prosecuted for 'gross indecency' because of his gay relationship with another man. He was subjected to chemical castration as a punishment for his 'crime', leading to his (probable) suicide in 1954.
Since then, the work of Alan Turing has been recognised as one of the most important contributions to the defeat of fascism in World War Two. Alan Turing received a full royal pardon in 2013, and has recently been recognised for his work through his image on the new £50 note. Turing was a true local hero, and one who's worth celebrating.
Since Turing's day, huge advances have been made in the attitude of the state and the community to LGBTQ people. Laws banning homosexuality have been repealed, but this doesn't mean LGBTQ people are free from discrimination and harassment - this is still happening today, not everyone is as enlightened and accepting as they should be. Transgender people in particular are still subject to discrimination and oppression. Hate crimes against transgender people in the UK increased by over 80% over the past three years, with almost 2,000 such crimes recorded by the police during 2018-2019.
Pride festivals help to celebrate diversity and the freedom of all of us to live our lives in whatever way we want, as long as it doesn't harm or oppress others. But they also help to overcome prejudice and fear of LGBTQ people. Hastings Pride is part of this. It's a festival for the whole family, where anyone can come along and enjoy a day of music, entertainment, food, and more. This is a festival for everyone, whoever your hero is, and however you want to celebrate them.
The procession starts from Cornwallis Street car park at 11am, through the town centre and along the seafront to The Oval where the music starts at midday.
So come along to the festival, dress as your hero, join the procession, enjoy the entertainment and (hopefully) the sunshine, and show solidarity and support for our LGBTQ community.
Council Leader's column